Here is another fantastic writing prompt from my husband. I’ll try to remember what kinds of things were going through my head, decade by decade…
Decade One: 10 Years Old
Context: When I was 10 years old I was in Grade 5, in Mr. Corey’s Grade 5/6 split class. Mr. Corey had our desks arranged in circles with a computer in the middle of each circle (Commodore 64s!). I remember one of my favourite projects in his class was to make a little book of short stories. We would type our stories into the computer, print them out with the dot-matrix printer, paste them onto glossy paper (we could choose the colour), and then design the cardboard cover. When we were done he had the covers laminated. I was also a book worm at that point, reading all kinds of different books and drooling whenever the Scholastic Book fair came to our school. I think this was around the time I was obsessed with horses and My Little Pony. I wanted to be a palaeontologist or a zoologist when I grew up.
Emotions: I remember being in my own little dream-world most of the time, when I wasn’t concentrating on school work or playing with my small group of friends. I would make up worlds which usually included winged horses or unicorns. From what I remember the worlds were usually forest-based and fairytale-like. I guess the word that comes to mind for this decade is whimsy or dreamy. I was a bit on the chubby side and was self-conscious about that. I was also receiving a weekly allowance and I remember saving up for specific toys. I would obsess about whatever toy it was but I noticed that the more time that passed, the more the obsession would wane. When I discovered something that I wanted to buy I would tell myself, “Wait a couple of days and see how you feel about it then.” Nine times out of ten I realized that it didn’t really matter that I didn’t have it.
Decade Two: 20 Years Old
Context: If my calculations are correct, I would have just started my undergraduate degree in university. At some point in high school I realized I didn’t want to dig up dinosaur bones any longer and the thought of being a zoologist, for some reason I can’t remember, fizzled. For my university major I originally chose to study biotechnology, since I was good at science in high school and I rather liked it. The funny thing was is that I didn’t have a super clear understanding of what biotechnology is–I knew it had something to do with biology, chemistry, and genetics, all subjects I had been good at. And I knew there was an applied aspect to it, too. (Looking back I obviously should have done more research!) Anyway, my university courses kicked my butt. I was so used to receiving grades in the range of 80-99% that I was terrified when I discovered I was barely passing. And I didn’t really like the science courses, either. I was freaking out. So I sat back and thought, “I like the sciences and the arts…how about psychology?” So I went for it. I changed my major and was much happier. But did I know what I wanted to do with my degree? Not really. Maybe a therapist?
Emotions: At this point in my life the world seemed overwhelming. So overwhelmed is a good word to describe this time in my life. Probably scared, anxious, nervous, and clueless, too! I would also say impatient, because I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking before making a decision–I just wanted to make the damn decision! I wanted a plan! The older me would have coached myself to take a breath, sit back, and consider things, including taking some time to think about who I am. Looking back I didn’t really know who I was when I was in my early 20s. All I knew was that I certainly wasn’t ready to face the world! I was a terrified little rabbit.
Decade Three: 30 Years Old
Context: I earned a Ph.D.! I was going to find a job in academia, as a professor! I would continue to study bumblebees and teach psychology courses. My career seemed all planned out, if only I could find a job…
Emotions: I was certainly feeling more self-confident, proud of my accomplishments, and a bit anxious (in a good way) for the future. I was optimistic that I would land the perfect academic career.
Decade Four: 40 Years Old
Context: Well, the academic job never materialized. After 4656734 rejection letters and a contract professor position that taught me that academia wasn’t for me, I was going contract-to-contract with university research jobs. It was certainly NOT the path I expected! And I had to do a lot of soul-searching in order to be okay with that. Through that process of self-reflection I realized that writing is my true passion, and that my goal is to one day have my own book on the shelf. So I started to take writing seriously. I go to writing conferences and classes and workshops whenever I can. I’ve been published in several children’s magazines and I have an agent (hooray!). I now have my own family: a husband, two children, and a dog.
Emotions: I have to say I’m much more at peace. My husband, kids, friends, and yes, even my dog, have taught me to keep perspective. To slow my mind down. To see the world and my situation, whatever it may be, more broadly and in context. I’ve learned that there’s much, much more to life than a career. I’m much more self-aware, in tune with my feelings (especially my gut feelings), and comfortable with myself and the path that I am on. I still lose perspective sometimes, and I still feel anxious now and then, but I try to be a friend to myself. Rather than try to shove aside my feelings and truck on, I try to ask myself, How would a friend react to my thoughts? It’s tough and I’m still learning, but I find if I take the mental energy to shift in that direction, the outcome is a much more calm and peaceful state. I’m also learning to let go of other people’s expectations. That is a big one. But I’m getting there.
Decade Five: 50 Years Old
Context: …to be continued…
Emotions: …to be continued…